Finding the “good” in Goodbyes

Be forwarned–it’s long.  My brain downloading….

We have said a lot of goodbyes lately. Honestly, it’s starting to wear on me. Seven weeks ago we said goodbye to a missionary family that arrived in Brazil the same time we did and studied at the same language school. They also had boys Luke & Sierra’s ages–other boys for Luke to play with!!–but they had completed their time here, and set off for the country God had called them to in Africa. There is a good chance we will never see them in person again this side of Heaven.
It was three weeks ago last Saturday since earthly goodbyes were said to Matt’s mom. We will not see her again this side of Heaven.
Following the funeral after she passed away, Matt and I said goodbye to our families, again, for the second time this year. There is a good chance we’ll see them again this side of Heaven, but honestly, none of us knows that for sure.
And then last week, we said goodbye to another missionary family that studied at our language school, the family that took care of our kids while we made the aforementioned trip to the U.S. They are staying here in Brazil, so since we’ll at least be in the same country, there’s a good chance we’ll meet up again…but being with different missions in different parts of the country….who knows?
We watched their kids for a couple hours last Thursday night so they could have one last date in Campinas, and after they left our apartment, I was just done. Because I realized that in less than 3 months, we have to say MORE goodbyes, to our amazing church here, the wonderful friends God has given us, our great language teachers…and I don’t want to. I know God wants us in Santarém, and I believe we’ll be as blessed there as we have been here, but my inner child wants to stomp my feet and say ‘No, I DON’T want to do this again’. Say goodbye, start over, meet new people….I just want to be….comfortable. This is a heart issue I’ve been confronted with over the last few months, my desire for comfort. Not necessarily physical comfort, although that is true more than I’d like to admit, but mental/social comfort.  I want to be with people that I’ve known for years rather than trying to get to know new people.  I don’t want to have to stretch myself and try new things, like, for instance making a hair appointment on the phone in a foreign language.  I don’t want it to be so HARD to do things that used to be so simple, like going to the post office to mail something, or going to the eye doctor, or even buying gas for the car….I just want it to be easy.  Ouch, that’s not fun to own up to.  Now that I sound like a total whiner–because,wait,  I am on this fantastic adventure right?- and there are lots of people who’ve told me they’d love to be in my shoes- let me say that this is me attempting to be real, but/and it’s not always like that, and it has gotten so much easier to do some of those things, and I actually enjoy going to the street market to buy fruit & vegetables during the week.

So back to the goodbyes.  I started thinking about how often we’ve said it in the last several weeks, and then starting thinking about the past year.  Just over a year ago, in mid-August, we did our round of goodbyes with God-given new friends and our wonderful church family in our ‘home for a year’ in Michigan.  And a year ago last week, we were in Colorado on our way to cross-cultural training at MTI for three weeks.  Matt had asked me if I was excited and I told him “no, I just don’t have the energy to meet a bunch of new people and try to get to know them…and it’s for such a short time”.  I felt like not ‘trying’.  That lasted all of about two hours after we arrived and as everyone introduced themselves, the mission they were with, what country they were headed to, etc. I got REALLY excited.  SO EXCITED, to talk to each one, individual, couple, or family and find out what God had done in their life, how He had called them, where He had called them to, and the way in which He’d use them once they got there.  We met some incredible people, had some incredible talks, heard some incredible testimonies, and three weeks later, I was so sad to say goodbye….knowing that it was highly unlikely that same group would ever be in the same place again…this side of Heaven.  Through some God-orchestrated circumstances, we were super blessed to get to spend time with some (but not all) of those same people again in the months after the training was over, and I was pretty glad I’d decided to ‘try’  🙂  And thank goodness for Facebook, so I can continue to keep up with how the Lord is using them, and know how to pray for them, now that we’re spread all over the world.

I’m rambling a bit here (so if you’re still with me, thanks, and I think there is a point somewhere that I’m getting to), but after those goodbyes, we did the ”Big Goodbyes”–with our extended families, our parents, our brothers and sisters and all the great people they married that made our families grow, and our sweet nieces and nephews.  At MTI, the kids learned, and the grown-ups too, that it’s ok–even good–when goodbyes hurt, because it means we’ve loved well.  And yes, I’ve had that thought–that I wished I didn’t love quite so well so it didn’t hurt so much.  My husband has mentioned maybe once or twice something that we read about in our Perspectives class–that two or three hundred years ago, missionaries often packed their belongings in a coffin–because they knew the chances of returning ‘home’ were slim.  And yet they went anyway.  AND YET THEY WENT ANYWAY!  Because it was worth it, and it still is.  I had to think as I started writing this, if someone read it who didn’t believe in Jesus and His saving power, they might very likely think I/we are crazy–why would we do something like this if it’s hard/sad/uncomfortable/sometimes painful.  Good question.

The most difficult goodbye of course, has been the one that is permanent from our earthly perspective–saying goodbye to Matt’s mom.  Luke has been the most vocal about missing her, and a few times a week will tell us that he misses her, and sometimes ask “Why did Grandma have to to die?”  That is the hardest for me, watching our 7 year old son cry, and knowing there is not a thing I can do to fix the situation, knowing that we were all here in Brazil when she passed away, and Luke’s last face-to-face goodbye to her was 8 months ago.  That just hurts.  But Jane always was aware of people that were worse off than she was, and used it to be thankful in whatever situation she was in, and I try to keep that perspective too–a healthy balance between knowing these are some rough roads to walk, and acknowleding that there are others with much rougher paths to tread.  So we talk again about both the physical reason (cancer) and the spiritual reason (sin).  Since Adam and Eve, each person alive has been a sinner in need of a Savior.  Praise God, Matt’s sweet mom knew & loved Jesus, but God’s original plan was not for us all to live and die and experience this kind of pain.  Might sound harsh to talk to a sad 7 year old about that, but its truth, and a truth he needs to understand just like all of us.  Especially since our purpose here is to help share with people who don’t know, or maybe who don’t care, this need that each of us has, and how it was met through Jesus’ death on the cross, and resurrection.

Thursday night after our friends left our apartment for the last time, I laid in the hammock next to the big window in our living room area and looked out at the sky and thought, I really don’t think this is what I signed up for when I got married.  I just wanted to marry a farmer and raise our kids in the country, and what are we doing here?!? 🙂  And then I remembered, that verse that I read a long time ago when I was talking to the Lord about marrying Matt.  Ruth 1:16:

“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God”

In context, she is talking to her mother-in-law, not her future husband.  But it spoke volumes to me, and has many times since as we have moved around–where he goes, I go.  And if you know us and know our story, you’ll know I’m not ”just following along” wherever Matt goes, I’ve seen God’s hand in my own life regarding our call to Brazil….but anyway, that is another long post for another time 🙂

My point in sharing that verse was that I started thinking again about all our moves over the past two years–would I trade them?  Would I really go back and not do them, just to stay comfortable?  No, I really wouldn’t.  We have met so many new people that I now totally understand ”love multiplies, rather than needing to be divided, when new people come into your life.”  If I wasn’t afraid of leaving someone out (and if this wasn’t already plenty long) I would write each of their names here.  So many special people.  First in Illinois, and then in Michigan, in Colorado, now in Brazil….friends to speak into my life, special blessings that I don’t deserve–but God gave them to me anyway.  Do I really want to stand here and stomp my feet like my 5 year old and say ”I don’t want to!”  (say goodbye again, move, get to know new people)….well, no.  I am a slow learner, but I’m finally starting to get it.  In seeking to be obedient,  I’ve ended up being blessed beyond my imagination, and finding joy—and that is ‘worth’ being uncomfortable.

Mariah would probably have a fit if she knew I shared this, but the other day while we were out walking she told me (with a smile) that this moving has really kind of messed up her life, because now she doesn’t know where she wants to live when she gets older–she loves people in the U.S. but loves it here in Brazil too…… too kiddo, me too.  And I think that’s a good thing 🙂

And all these goodbyes….well, it has sure made me long for Heaven more, where I’ll never have to say goodbye again.

“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them”  Hebrews 11:16



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